Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 16

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 1:17pm 285978781

Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.

339.9 — yards allowed per game by the Vikings in Mike Zimmer’s first season.

Considering how the Vikings fared defensively a year ago and all the new faces that forced them to bring in, it seemed unlikely that Zimmer, their first-year coach, would be able to take the Vikings from 31st in the NFL in total defense to a top-10 unit. But with a strong finish these final two games, he might just do it. The Vikings enter Week 16 tied for 11th in the league in total defense, allowing 339.9 yards per game (last season the Vikings allowed 397.6 yards per game). They are just 43 total yards behind the Chargers, who rank ninth. So that top-10 ranking is very much in reach.

17 — pass break-ups for cornerback Xavier Rhodes, tied for fourth in the NFL.

Rhodes played well against the Lions, particularly star wide-out Calvin Johnson, but for the first time in a while, the second-year corner didn’t get his hands on the ball. It was his first game without a pass break-up since October, snapping a streak of five straight games with at least one. Still, he has broken up at least one pass in nine of his last 11 games, giving him 17 total pass break-ups this season. That ranks fourth in the NFL behind Bradley Fletcher of the Eagles, Vontae Davis of the Colts and Buster Skrine of the Browns. And it’s more than double the next Vikings player on the list.

75.6 — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s accuracy percentage in his first season.

Accuracy was considered to be one of Bridgewater’s biggest assets coming out of college, and so far in the NFL, he has usually been on target, too. The rookie ranks seventh in accuracy percentage, a stat from Pro Football Focus that accounts for things such as dropped passes and throwaways, unlike raw completion percentage. They say Bridgewater has been accurate on 75.6 percent of his throws, just ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. And since Week 9, only Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have been more accurate.

seven — total sacks allowed by Vikings offensive linemen in the past five weeks.

Since the Week 10 bye week, the Vikings offensive line has allowed 52 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, which is tied for 18th in the NFL. That’s actually a significant improvement for that banged-up group. In the first 10 weeks of the season, they surrendered 118 total pressures, third most in the league. The difference is about three fewer pressures per game. Not all pressures are created equally, of course. In those first nine games, offensive linemen were responsible for 24 sacks, according to PFF. Over the past five, the linemen were at fault for only seven sacks.

minus-59 — the Vikings’ point differential in their five divisional games in 2014.

I wrote in today’s paper about the Vikings falling to 0-5 against their NFC North rivals. They kept things close in rematches against the Packers and Lions, but overall, they have been outscored, 120-61, in their five divisional games this season. That’s a point differential of minus-59 in the division. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 6-3 against teams not in their division, outscoring those teams by a combined 39 points. They play their final NFC North game in the season finale. Considering how the dysfunctional Bears are playing, the Vikings probably shouldn’t be 0-fer for much longer.

Vikings NFL Draft Order: Week 16

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 16th at 7:05pm 285971211

Every Tuesday, we’ll analyze the Vikings draft chances for the 2015 NFL Draft

The Vikings minuscule playoff chances vanished before they even took the field last week. The Rams lost to the Cardinals last Thursday, wiping away the Vikings’ only (long shot) scenario of stealing the sixth seed.

Now that we can officially stop mentioning playoffs in this blog, the Vikings sit at 6-8 after losing 16-14 to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. Here’s how it impacted their draft spot if the season ended today with record, strength of schedule tiebreaker (if necessary) and upcoming opponent listed in parentheses:

  1. Tampa Bay (2-12) (.467) (vs. Green Bay on Sunday)
  2. Tennessee (2-12) (.503) (at Jacksonville on Sunday)
  3. Jacksonville (2-12) (.538) (vs. Tennessee on Sunday)
  4. Oakland (2-12) (.571) (vs. Buffalo on Sunday)
  5. Washington (3-11) (.469) (vs. Philadelphia on Saturday)
  6. New York Jets (3-11) (.536) (vs. New England on Sunday)
  7. Atlanta (5-9) (.495) (at New Orleans on Sunday)
  8. New York Giants (5-9) (.505) (at St. Louis on Sunday)
  9. Chicago (5-9) (.519) (vs. Detroit on Sunday)
  10. Carolina (5-8-1) (vs. Cleveland on Sunday)
  11. Minnesota (6-8) (.482) (at Miami on Sunday)
  12. St. Louis (6-8) (.536) (vs. New York Giants on Sunday)

The Vikings still hold the 11th overall pick if the season ended despite the loss. They’re guaranteed a top 20 draft at this point, but they can’t pick no higher than seventh with two games remaining.

What will favor the Vikings at the end of the season will be their strength of schedule, the first tiebreaker to determine the draft order. They currently have the fifth lowest strength of schedule percentage among teams currently holding a top 20 pick. It’s not expected to change much given that the Vikings have played four teams with winning records — the Lions, Packers, Patriots and Bills. Their next two opponents, the Dolphins and Bears, sit at 7-7 and 5-9.

So here are your draft scenarios if the Vikings win or lose in Miami:

If the Vikings lose: They’d pick no worse than 16th heading into the season finale next week against the Bears. That could drop even lower depending on how Week 16 plays out.

If the Vikings win: It gets a little tricky. With one game separating the Falcons, who hold the No. 7 right now, and the Rams, who have the 12th pick, it’s difficult to predict what would be the Vikings’ best pick scenario. What is certain though is if the Vikings win and the Falcons, Giants, Bears and Panthers all lose (which is certainly possible), the Vikings will not have a shot at a top 10 pick.

So you might want to keep an eye on those four teams over the weekend if you’re hoping for a Vikings top 10 pick in 2015.

Greenway named Vikings' Community Man of Year

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 10:59am 285968341

Chad Greenway has been selected as the Vikings’ Community Man of the Year for 2014.

Since joining the Vikings in 2006, the outside linebacker has volunteered with several local organizations, including Memorial Blood Centers, Sanford Health, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Fuel Up To Play 60, The Salvation Army, Taste of the NFL, United Way and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota.

In 2009, Greenway and his wife, Jenni, started the Lead The Way Foundation to provide seriously ill and physically challenged children throughout the Twin Cities “with daily support and life-changing experiences.” Since its inception, Greenway’s foundation has raised more than $1.3 million.

Greenway is one of 32 NFL team representatives vying for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The winner will be named at the Super Bowl.

This is the second time Greenway has been selected as the Vikings’ Community Man of the Year. He also won the award in 2011.

Yesterday, Greenway was named as a finalist for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: NFC North has been unkind, Teddy learns on the fly and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 7:03pm 285936511

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.


— The Vikings are still looking for their first NFC North win of the season.

— Coach Mike Zimmer is glad QB Teddy Bridgewater is learning on the fly.

— The NFLPA is officially suing the NFL on RB Adrian Peterson’s behalf.

— LT Matt Kalil fared better against the Lions the second time around.

— OLB Chad Greenway is up for the NFL’s new sportsmanship award.



— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s future in Miami is in serious doubt.

— Philbin says he is only concerned with the Vikings, not his future.

— Miami’s playoff hopes have dwindled with back-to-back losses.

— The Dolphins opened up their passing game in their latest loss.


It’s Tuesday, so Vikings players have the day off. They’ll be back in the building tomorrow.


Rookie wide receivers are making an impact across the league, and it’s not just first-rounders like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. Mid-round picks such as Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant have made some plays, too. The Vikings, despite having 10 picks, did not take a wide receiver. The position wasn’t a major need, but it was one of the deepest receiver classes in recent memory.

Mike Zimmer glad Teddy Bridgewater's learning by playing

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 15th at 3:42pm 285870871

Once quarterback Matt Cassel was placed on injured reserve three games into the year, the Vikings season was mainly about the growth of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and how he adjusted to the NFL.

He jumped into the mix faster than anticipated with Cassel’s foot injury, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is saying that Bridgewater’s on-the-job training will benefit the quarterback, the offense and the organization down the road.

“I really think you learn best from playing,” Zimmer said. “That’s what I believe, and I’m glad that he’s playing. …What I was nervous about at the beginning of the year was I didn’t want to get him beat up, I didn’t want to get him gun-shy, I didn’t want to get him a bunch of bad outings where he didn’t have the confidence and that attitude that he was going to do the things that he’s doing.”

Another concern Zimmer had with Bridgewater making his first start four games into his career was his health. The Vikings have gradually lost three starting offensive linemen and shuffled around at every position except left tackle Matt Kalil, who has been inconsistent, and center John Sullivan.

Bridgewater is tied with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the eighth most sacks taken in the NFL this season with 32. Zimmer believes the protection has improved as of late with Bridgewater sacked a combined six times against a good Jets and Lions defensive line.

“I’m glad that we’re keeping him upright,” Zimmer said. “You can think back, and I know it’s just my belief, you think back on some of the quarterbacks that have had to play as rookies or been playing as rookies and got the heck beat out of them and they haven’t made it. So that was the most important thing to me to start this season is that we take care of him and when it’s time, it’s time.”

It’s evident Bridgewater has made gradual strides over the course of this season, with many learning experiences along the way in 10 career starts. The latest occurred in a 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, when the Vikings offense couldn’t score in the second half and missed out on two opportunities in the final four minutes to take the lead.

“I think in the long run his playing and going through all these experiences and getting a chance to play against Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit will be a big factor for us in the future because he’s been through these things now,” Zimmer said. “It’s not new. If he wasn’t playing, that fourth quarter[against the Lions], the things that happened in the ballgame, maybe next year we’re in the same boat and he’s learning from it then as opposed to learning from it now.”


Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
UC Santa Barbara 45


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